The People Behind The Fairy Tales
The fairy tale is a type of folklore told around campfires from one generation to the next. They contain stories about talking animals, witches, and monsters. Ironically, you don't see too many fairies in these tales. Didn't every child grew up fairy tales? Our parents read them to us when we were young and Disney made children-safe cartoons about them. Who were the people behind these stories and fables? Why did they write or collect them?
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were German writers during the 1700-1800s. While known for their fairy tales, the Brothers Grimm are also known for compiling the first German dictionary. Living up to their names, the Grimm Brothers’ stories are typically very dark and scary compared to the Disney versions they would later become. All of them come from regional legends in Germany and contain creatures such as giants, dwarves, and other monsters. They were not the stories you would expect that would be written for children. Here is a previous post about dark fairy tales. The Brothers Grimm are known for: The Frog Prince, Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, and Rumpelstiltskin.
This Danish storyteller wrote during the 1800s. He was well known during his lifetime and his stories have stood the test of time. Andersen, himself was a bit of an oddball. He might have been the illegitimate son of Danish royalty, but it was never revealed. He did have an inside advantage - the king, Frederick VI, paid for his education. Of his relationships, Andersen was attracted to both men and women, although, it is thought that he never consummated his love, being extremely shy. He would go onto writing children’s stories. Some of these include: The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling, and Thumbelina. His stories have been translated into more than 150 languages and inspired movies, plays, and ballets.
Probably the least-known of the fairy tale writers (by his given name) and certainly the most famous overall, Perrault was a 17th century French author who is considered the founder of the modern fairy tale. Perrault lived the life of a wealthy man in France. He was a politician and attorney. He was highly influential in French royalty until he finally lost his position at the age of 67. Out of a job, Perrault decided to write down a series of fairy tales that were told all through France. You might know the stories as: Little Red Riding Hood, Puss In Boots, and Cinderella. What might surprise you more is the title Perrault gave to his book: "Contes de ma mère l'Oye" or "Tales of my Mother Goose". His book is the first authenticated writing of the Mother Goose stories. Interestingly enough, Humpty Dumpty and Jack and Jill were not part of the original Mother Goose tales.
This Greek writer from the 6th century BC wrote some of the first fairy tales in Western culture although, no one is sure if he ever lived. His life has been written about and his stories have been told over and over by such historians as Herodotus, Aristotle, and Plutarch, but nothing he wrote survives in its original format. He was described as a “strikingly ugly” Ethiopian slave who used his stories to gain his freedom and become the adviser to kings. Is this just another story? Aesop was known for some of the following stories: The Fox and the Grapes, Androcles and the Lion, and The Tortoise and the Hare. Most of his stories are about animals that can talk and end with a lesson to be learned as a result of what goes on in the story.
This is a collection of stories within a story that comes out of the Middle East. There is no specific writer to these tales, however, and the stories were collected by authors throughout Egypt, Syria, and Persia. Some of the stories might be from India, but no one knows for sure. The stories within the Arabian Nights are wrapped up into a central or main story. A Persian king, Shahryar, has a new, virginal bride every morning, then executes her the next day. Soon, he cannot find a virgin to marry in all of his lands, so his adviser’s daughter agrees to be his next bride. Her name is Scheherazade and she tells the king a story before bedtime, but refuses to finish it. The king becomes so intrigued by the tale, he doesn’t kill her the next morning. The next night, she continues the story, but leaves it unfinished. This goes on for a thousand and one nights and in the end, the king has fallen in love with her and lets her live. The story was brought to Europe for the first time in the early 1700s and was translated into French by Antoine Galland. It was a 12 volume series (1001 tales is a lot of reading). Stories from these tales include: Sinbad the Sailor, Aladdin and the Genie, and the story of Ali Baba (all of which didn’t appear in the original Persian text).